So, what do Banana Fish, Ushio To Tora, and Dororo all share in common? Apparently, it’s MAPPA Studios and their obsession with picking up classics from way, way back to give them entirely new life. And like, I’m not mad at it. Banana Fish still happens to be one of my favorite anime of all time whilst simultaneously being a show that I must avoid watching or risk being a wreck for approximately 3 business days. But can I say the Dororo remake similarly moved me?
I mean, kind of? I’m not saying that the Dororo remake that came out in 2019 isn’t worth the watch. It’s certainly an upgrade from the original anime series that came out in 1969, over 50 years ago. This is insane, honestly but then again, anime isn’t exactly a new medium. But I think the problem is that while it had a lot of promise as this fascinating Dark Fantasy, it did leave some things to be desired. So, while it’s a good watch, it isn’t exactly as memorable as other MAPPA works.
But that’s something that these kinds of remakes can suffer from, especially if the source material they are being adapted from is decades old. And some aspects of a story from back then might not work in the current climate. But that’s where the director in charge of making the anime can add their spin to things, and take decisions that might end up suiting the story much better now vs when they originally came out.
This was the case with Banana Fish, where today’s more lax censorship rules ended up working in the anime adaptation’s favor. Being able to show the grit that the franchise is known for is what made it so good. And the same did happen for Dororo as well, where it went from kitschy cartoon animation of old into a more polished product. But does it stand up? Let’s discuss
The Premise: The Sins Of The Father, The Vengeance Of The Son
Lord Daigo Kametsu is a desperate man. And desperation can lead to cruelty. To save his prefecture, Lord Daigo makes a pact with demons who offer him the power he wants, but at a price. The sacrifice ends up being his son – a deformed being born with no limbs, eyes, not even skin. And so, he is thrown into the river, forgotten.
But luck was on this fateful child’s side, as he is saved by a man that helps him through medicine and prosthetics to make up for what he lacked. Though he still can’t see or feel anything, this child grows strong and vows to kill the demons that took everything from him. And it is on this path to vengeance that our protagonist, Hyakkimaru, comes across Dororo, an orphan. Together, they make their way through a cursed world.
The Breakdown: Dororo Is Visually Breath Taking But Drags?
I think Dororo is beautiful. The animation is crisp and polished, ethereal in a way where it highlights the folklore and mythology that it incorporates into the story. Watching the anime is a genuine treat.
However, I wish there was more depth to the story. On the surface, it’s such an interesting premise and works super well. You expect this grand, epic tale of a boy taking back what he is owed from these monsters, and, yeah, you get that. But it’s more episodic, rather than an overarching narrative that ties cohesively. The monster-of-the-week premise is interesting, but you’re left expecting more from the characters themselves, who end up feeling slightly underdeveloped.
At some point, it feels like the anime is being dragged on for no reason. And that’s when you start losing interest. However, it is still a good anime to watch. As per MAPPA standards, the anime is top-notch, with gorgeous fight choreography and scenic panoramas that get you immersed in the whole dark vibe.
But the anime itself could’ve easily been shorter, which would have made it feel much more satisfying to watch.
The Verdict: Gorgeous Anime, Just Wish It Was More
Look, if you enjoy stories about ronin and samurai mixed with a fantastical supernatural world, you will love Dororo. It’s a great anime if that’s the mood you’re in. But I feel like there was so much potential there that this series didn’t capitalize on.
But hey, that’s my only complaint. It might not be life-changing, but Dororo is perfectly serviceable.